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Baseball: Wildcats stave off Bruins, Walk it off 3-2.

The Arizona Wildcat’s dugout cleared to celebrate their second straight walk off victory against UCLA at Hi Corbett Field.

TUCSON,AZ— Following an exhilarating 5-3 victory in extra innings Thursday night, the Wildcats met the Bruins of UCLA once again. Friday afternoon Arizona and UCLA met up for the second of three matchups on a picturesque night in Tucson. The Wildcats had to mount a comeback in the opening matchup Thursday after falling behind 3-0, but on Friday it was the Bruins mounting comebacks. Arizona led 2-0 due in large part to Emilio Corona’s who scored both runs for Arizona. Corona tripled in the third and advanced two bags on a steal attempt in the fifth. Each time he was knocked in from third base, both times by Richie Morales who had 2RBI’s on the night (aided by hitting behind Corona).

After seven innings Arizona led 2-0, with Senior Right Handed Starter Clark Candiotti pitching a gem. Candiotti trotted out in the eighth as confident as any player at Hi Corbett Field. His confidence would be short-lived. His first pitch of the inning was smacked into the outfield, a leadoff double for D.H. Roman Martin. A bunt, strikeout and hit by pitch later and UCLA had men on the corners with two outs. A sharply struck ball to shortstop Mason White led to a costly error where White sailed his throw over first baseman Tommy Splaine’s head and allowed an unearned run to make it a one run game. Candiotti, who was looking at the end of the eighth inning with a zero on the scoreboard for UCLA, now had to find another out with the tying run two bases away. Candiotti would force a grounder to first and Tommy Splaine would take care of it all by himself ending the top half of the eighth inning.

After striking out 12 in the first eight innings, the most of any individual Wildcat pitcher since 2018, Chip Hale was content to send out Candiotti for the final three outs. Candiotti would hit Duce Gourson, the first batter of the inning, and Gourson would advance to second on a sacrifice bunt laid down by Roch Cholowsky. Levu, the next UCLA batter, would fly a hard hit ball to left field, but Easton Bryfogle, who was busy all night, chased it down to record the 26th out. Just one out away, Candiotti had to face Martin Roman once again. Roman had already hit Candiotti hard in the previous inning, a line drive that resulted in a double, and now could tack on the damage. Roman did just that, lining one up the middle, just hard enough to get past the diving effort of Mason White and into shallow center field. Gourson would score and just as Arizona did to UCLA the night before, the Bruins had the game all tied up. Candiotti would record his 27th out the ensuing at bat and close out a strong performance: 9.0 I.P. 4H, 2R, 1ER, 1BB, 12K.

Now Arizona had their chance to respond to UCLA’s push. Rashad Ruff would remain in the game for UCLA in the bottom of the ninth and walked Brendan Summerhill on the opening at bat of the inning. Easton Bryfogle would lay down a perfectly placed bunt which led to a throwing error by Bruin catcher Dugger, placing runners on the corners with nobody out. An intentional walk to Guzman loaded the bases for Arizona. With 1 out recorded Emilio Corona stepped to the plate with the winning run 90 feet away for Arizona. Corona had already been the most distinguished Wildcat Friday night, but now had an incredibly clear moment to be a hero. On the first pitch from Bruins reliever Rashad Ruff, Corona flew it to straight away center with enough distance on it for Easton Summerhill to tag up from third. Summerhill scampered down the third base line as Phoenix Call’s throw drifted wide, allowing him to score and salvaging the Wildcats a victory. A game that looked promising early on was not nearly as optimistic in the bottom of the ninth for Arizona.

Arizona will play UCLA one more time at Hi Corbett…1PM Saturday. The Wildcats have already won the series, but have an opportunity to sweep the Bruins in the series finale tomorrow. A sweep could serve as a turning point for the season and at a minimum send a statement to the rest of the PAC-12, regarding the Wildcats legitimacy.

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